Story Time: Your Hairstylist is Not a Mind Reader Friday 27 April, 2012

Gold is gold is gold, right? Not so fast: Your view of golden highlights may not match up to your hairstylist’s interpretation of the hue. Best to bring in those magazine tears to help explain your vision.

When I was just starting out in my career, I gained momentum rather quickly by being assertive and making my own opportunities. I found myself helping to conceive and execute photo shoots within my second year as an editor. I was green but bright-eyed and raring to go; my newness translated heavily to not having a thick skin (some would say that may still be true); I took things—mostly the negative things—to heart. So my memory is still fresh with some of the run-ins I had on set, which I can now laugh about, but stung me to my then-idealist core back in the day.

One such incident occurred over a lip gloss hue. I had requested a juicy watermelon shade; when the high-profile makeup artist walked the model over to me for approval, I was dumbstruck. Her lips were…cayenne pepper red. Where was the disconnect?, I wondered. My youth kept me humble, so I tried to find my words carefully. “This looks nice, but I think we need a lighter color on her lips. Like a watermelon.”

“This IS watermelon,” the makeup artist barked back—in front of the model, I might add.

I blinked. “Well, in any case, this lip is too dark for what we need. Can we change it to something more…light? Juicy?”

“Here, come with me,” she spat, and whipped herself around in a huff as I trailed her to her station. With all the drama of a theater actress on opening night, she ripped open her makeup pouch and poured out her lip glosses all over the station table. I watched as they rolled every which way, speechless. She then started roughly snatching tubes—arbitrarily, it seemed to me—and when she had her group of 10 or so, swept her arm across the table, effectively pushing all of the remaining, inconsequential tubes onto the floor. She then, gently now, laid out the 10 tubes side by side, and looked at me. I could see fire in her eyes. I gulped.

“Which do you think is watermelon?” she asked.

I narrowed my eyes, willing the watermelon to jump out at me. “Um…I suppose these two most meet what I would define as watermelon,” I said meekly.

“They are all watermelon,” she sniped, “But we’ll use one of the two you picked so that you’re happy, ‘K?” And with that, she turned her back on me and waded through the errant glosses that seemed like the casualties of a war started largely due to miscommunication (and an amazingly large ego).

This should have felt like victory, but it didn’t. My spirit had been broken, my position of authority challenged to the point that I felt I couldn’t speak my mind without worrying about having my head bit off. And I never forgot that day. Clearly.

Shoot to modern day, and I’m sitting across from L’Oréal Professionnel Artist Jennifer MacDougall, talking about the 2.0 version of INOA haircolor (and another exciting launch that I can’t quite divulge yet), and we are hashing out my haircolor and what I want to do with it—but I can’t help but divulge that I’m wary. I am seeking a certain shade of ombré, and thus far have largely depended on my own two hands to create the bleached ends I have. Too many of my friends, seeking my ombré haircolor, have gone to salons only to come back extremely dissatisfied with the less-than-titular results. Do haircolorists still not know how to properly ombré hair, I ask?

We come to the conclusion that my friends didn’t bring a picture of me to their stylist, and this is where the disconnect began. “Just bring in pictures,” Jennifer says earnestly when I say I want the red stripped from my hair so I can have Drew Barrymore‘s color. “Because, well, Drew has had a lot of color changes, so by simply saying her name, I wouldn’t really know what you wanted.”

Ahhhh…magazine pictures. Yes! This seems like a no-brainer, but, apparently, a lot of you (myself included), don’t bring photos with you when you ask for big hair changes. Why? Well…there is probably some psychological component to it: We don’t feel like we look like the person, so we’re embarrassed to ask to be made into someone we clearly will never be (though, a good hairdresser knows you are purely referencing the hair, not the skin, body, organs and all-around fabulous life of the pictured person); we’re afraid the hairstylist may reject the pictures and tell us they aren’t suited for us (which may be the case—these people know what they’re talking about 99% of the time!). These two factors may be some of the mental hurdles. Regardless, those magazines tears are integral to what makes or breaks a successful hair consultation. Because, guess what? Your hairstylist cannot read your mind.

“I can’t tell you how many people say to me, ‘I don’t want any gold in my hair,’ and then in the next beat point to a picture of Brooklyn Decker and say, ‘I want her hair,'” laughs Jennifer. “Brooklyn Decker’s hair is as gold as it gets!”

By showing that picture of Brooklyn, you’re demystifying for the haircolorist what you are envisioning in your mind, because, as was made oh-so-abundantly-clear to me in my youth, the watermelon I see in my head may not be the watermelon you see in you head, and vice versa. Bringing photos puts everyone on the same page (which I learned to do after that fateful day), and even opens dialogue between you and your hairstylist—such as your hairstylist saying, “I know you don’t think you want gold in your hair, but this is what haircolorists call ‘golden,’ so let’s take a moment to really see if this is what you want.”

I have a friend that works at a competing magazine who put together a Pinterest board of the haircut she desired. Twenty or so images, all easily accessible on her iPad. Clearly, there was no way for any wires to cross in that consultation.

So, photos: Bring them to your hair appointment when you’re going for a change. Rip out (or pin) more than one so you can show a variety. Be open to suggestions and comments from your stylist about these images—it’s not about judging you, but about finding what’s best for your lifestyle, skin tone, eye color, face shape, etc. And then remember: The watermelon in my head is not better than yours—it’s just different. So let’s find one that we can both see before we go throwing around lip glosses, OK?

Karie L. Frost Signature

(Drew photos via:,,


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One Comment

  • Kurt says:

    Completely agree! Even as a guy, I bring in pictures all the time. My idea of choppy and messy is drastically different than my stylists. I even brought a picture of a type of buzz cut i wanted. It’s amazing that you and a barber can have different ideas of what a buzz should look like!

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